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Problems of polysemy and idealism
Andrew Sayer

This chapter develops a critique of certain approaches to markets and firm behaviour in economics and economic sociology. There are two main targets of the critique. The first concerns some common approaches to markets and the nature of firms in relation to them. The chapter argues that the diverse uses of the term 'market' in contemporary lay and academic discourse cause confusion. The second target of critique concerns literature on the socially embedded character of economic processes, on the nature of networks, and the role of trust. The chapter argues that their treatment has suffered frequently from being idealist, both in the sense of underestimating material aspects of economic life and in presenting an overly benign view which underestimates the instrumentality of most economic relations. It concludes with a reminder of the political significance of explanations of markets and competition.

in Market relations and the competitive process
Don Slater

The contemporary 'cultural turn' in thinking about economic processes has been deeply bound up with narratives of 'dematerialisation'. This chapter argues that characterisations of 'new economy' are based on the idea of dematerialisation are problematic because the distinction on which they are based misrepresents the issue of materiality. 'Dematerialisation', however, rests on a dubious distinction that has plagued much social theory: the distinction between objects and signs. This distinction equates 'materiality' with the physicality, or physical properties, of goods and social objects. In both economic and cultural theory, the social object oscillates wildly between an absolute, pregiven 'thingness' and an equally absolute indeterminacy, when it is treated as a sign. It is as if objects have to be 'black boxed' for fear that, once opened, they will behave like a Pandora's box, issuing formless spectres. Economic analysis categorisation provides a stable framework within which market analyses can be carried out.

in Market relations and the competitive process
Richard R. Nelson

The market organisation being canonised was simple and pure, along the lines of the standard textbook model in economics. This chapter considers the various virtues that purportedly characterise market organisation and elevates it over other kinds of governance structures. It concerns with 'market failure' theory, and other broad theories that point towards the desirability of a mixed economy. The chapter proposes that almost all activities in modern economies are governed through a mix of market and non-market mechanisms, with the relative importance of markets. The presumption and the fact that markets play a pervasive role in the governance and organisation of economic activity are relatively recent phenomena. To assess market organisation as a governing system, it is essential to widen the analytic context. The chapter focuses on strand of political philosophy, particularly Anglo-American political philosophy.

in Market relations and the competitive process
The resurgence of Route 128 in Massachusetts
Michael H. Best

This chapter argues that the severe decline of 1985-1992 in Massachusetts can be explained in terms of the emergence in Silicon Valley of a new model of technology management that undermined Route 128's competitive advantage in a range of industries. It also argues that the return to regional competitiveness can be explained in terms of the emergence of a new 'focus and network' business model that established the institutional foundations for a regional 'open systems' model of innovation. Complex system products are training grounds for systems integrators, individuals who can speak in several technological languages. The chapter seeks to bring 'technology management' into the discussion of the reasons for regional growth and decline. Treatment of the notion bridges three institutional domains: business model, production system and skill formation. The notion of technology management is rarely invoked in discussions of competitive advantage and industrial growth.

in Market relations and the competitive process
Jonathan Michie

This chapter analyses the economic and policy implications of some interrelated aspects of the corporate governance and regulation of professional league football that underlie the changing institutional arrangements. It deals with issues of corporate governance. The chapter argues that fan equity should be recognised as 'goodwill' in clubs' accounts and that supporter-shareholder trusts should be formed to solve the problem of misaligned incentives and the associated principal-agent problems between supporter shareholders and commercial investors. It also deals with issues of vertical integration between football clubs and broadcasters, and looks at the welfare implications of league collectivity and the exclusivity of broadcasting rights. The nature of the British footballing industry, with its local and community involvement, and its fan loyalty, creates public interest concerns and also makes the industry peculiarly vulnerable to anti-competitive behaviour.

in Market relations and the competitive process
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Crisis, reform and recovery
Shalendra D. Sharma

This chapter argues that the Bank of Thailand (BOT) made two egregious policy blunders. First were the futile and costly defense of the baht during late 1996 and the first half of 1997. Second was the bleeding of the Thai government's Financial Institutions Development Fund (FIDF) to prop up failing financial institutions, while neglecting to take actions to remedy the underlying structural problems in the financial and banking sector. Drawing on the Bank of Thailand's published materials, the chapter suggests that Thailand's long period of economic boom had lulled the technocrats into complacency. Unlike earlier financial crises in the developing world, where governments over-borrowed until they were forced to seek a bailout from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), or a multilateral debt rescheduling from externally-based creditors, the Thai crisis was rooted in the private sector.

in The Asian financial crisis
Joe Earle, Cahal Moran, and Zach Ward-Perkins

This chapter makes the academic, educational, practical and political case for pluralism in economics. It uses case studies of macroeconomics, the environment and inequality, to demonstrate that academic economics must open up to new ways of thinking.

in The econocracy
Abstract only
Joe Earle, Cahal Moran, and Zach Ward-Perkins

This chapter sketches out the contours of econocracy, its relationship with the academic discipline of economics and how it has developed in the twentieth century. It then shows in more detail how democracy has been undermined and the idea of the citizen as an active participant in political discussion and collective decision making been lost.

in The econocracy
Abstract only
The perils of leaving economics to the experts

One hundred years ago the idea of ‘the economy’ didn’t exist. Now, improving ‘the economy’ has come to be seen as one of the most important tasks facing modern societies. Politics and policymaking are increasingly conducted in the language of economics and economic logic increasingly frames how political problems are defined and addressed. The result is that crucial societal functions are outsourced to economic experts. The econocracy is about how this particular way of thinking about economies and economics has come to dominate many modern societies and its damaging consequences. We have put experts in charge but those experts are not fit for purpose.

A growing movement is arguing that we should redefine the relationship between society and economics. Across the world, students, the economists of the future, are rebelling against their education. From three members of this movement comes a book that tries to open up the black box of economic decision making to public scrutiny. We show how a particular form of economics has come to dominate in universities across the UK and has thus shaped our understanding of the economy. We document the weaknesses of this form of economics and how it has failed to address many important issues such as financial stability, environmental sustainability and inequality; and we set out a vision for how we can bring economic discussion and decision making back into the public sphere to ensure the societies of the future can flourish.

Joe Earle, Cahal Moran, and Zach Ward-Perkins

This chapter uses evidence from a curriculum review of seven universities across the UK to show how the philosophy which underpins econocracy is being passed down to the next generation of economic experts. The curriculum review analyses 174 economics modules using the course outlines and exams to illustrate that economics students are taught to memorise and regurgitate a narrow body of subject matter not think independently or critically.

in The econocracy